Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / May 7, 2021
Israel, it would seem, is counting on getting away with murder and ethnic cleansing in perpetuity.
The state’s authorities said they were investigating the death of Said Yousef Muhammad Odeh, a Palestinian boy who was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers earlier this week.
The supposed probe cannot be taken seriously, however, given Israel’s abysmal track record for investigating the deaths of Palestinians by its forces.
Instead, Israel’s self-investigations should only be seen as a hollow exercise intended to ward off international accountability.
Whether the International Criminal Court gives weight to these investigations, which have resulted in only a handful of convictions of low-ranking soldiers in recent years, remains to be seen.
That tribunal announced that it had opened an investigation into alleged war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip earlier this year.
The ICC defers to a country’s internal investigations, where they exist, under the principle of complementarity which holds that “states have the first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes.”
Nearly 200 Israelis including university professors and senior reserve army officers wrote the ICC this week to say that the state “has no intention to seriously investigate complaints of war crimes.”
The Israeli military says it is investigating the shooting death of a Palestinian woman at a road junction near a West Bank settlement on Sunday.
As Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy puts it plainly, video of the shooting of Fahmiya Hroub “leaves no room for doubt: This was an execution.”
The footage shows the 60-year-old slowly moving towards soldiers while holding a kitchen knife. She posed no immediate threat to anyone’s life before she was shot in the stomach, leg and hand and left bleeding in the street before being transferred to a hospital, where she died.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, said the killing of the woman reflected Israel’s open-fire policy “backed by senior government and military officials.” That policy allows for the use of lethal force “against any Palestinian holding a knife, regardless of the degree of danger posed.”
No Israeli responsible for the death of a Palestinian in similar circumstances has faced charges, according to B’Tselem.
Hroub’s family told Levy that the slain woman was experiencing psychiatric difficulties and was released from a hospital the day before she was killed.
Israel is holding the woman’s body, preventing her family from arranging a burial.
Israel’s high court has approved the withholding of slain Palestinians’ bodies to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with Hamas, which is believed to be holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 invasion of Gaza.
Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights group, says that the “practice of withholding bodies amounts to a policy of collective punishment.”
Israel’s use of collective punishment is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus a war crime.
The state’s high court has given its blessing to another form of collective punishment: punitive home demolitions.
That punishment is exacted against the families of Palestinians suspected of involvement in attacks on Israelis but is never used against Israelis who have attacked Palestinians.
On Thursday night, occupation forces raided a home belonging to the family Muntasir Shalabi, a Palestinian arrested by Israel over the shooting of three young Israelis in the West Bank, one of whom died of his injuries, earlier this week.
The Israeli military published a video of its soldiers in the home, mapping it ahead of its demolition – in other words, it published a video of its forces planning a war crime.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of terrifying videos circulating on social media (despite censorship by Twitter and Facebook) showing Israeli police and settler brutality against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
Sheikh Jarrah evictions
Palestinians facing imminent forced eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah are calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s crimes of “forcible transfer, appropriation of property, persecution, apartheid and other inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury.”
An Israeli court has paved the way for those evictions, ruling in favour of Nahalat Shimon International – an organization based in the US – and Ateret Cohanim, another settlement group that seeks to take over the properties.
It would be the second or third forced displacement of the Palestinian families who have been denied their right to return to the towns, cities and villages from which they were expelled around the time of Israel’s establishment in 1948.
The families are subjected to a “coercive environment” in Jerusalem “designed to transform the city’s demographic composition to secure Israeli-Jewish control over Jerusalem and drive ongoing Palestinian displacement,” according to human rights groups.
The UN’s human rights office warned Israel on Friday that the evictions would amount to a war crime.
Israel’s foreign ministry characterized the situation as a “real estate dispute.”
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee stated that “the scenes of settler violence in Sheikh Jarrah are repulsive. But they are not new.”
They are a continuation of the violence that has been enacted against Palestinians before, during and after Israel declared its independence on their homeland.
The violence of domination and displacement – carried out by settlers and uniformed forces alike – is backed by the Israeli state at every level.
“Deep concern” – the phrasing constantly used by Western diplomats – provides no protection to Palestinians under the boot of Israel’s military occupation.
Any state or institution that can leverage material pressure but instead only urges Israel to act with restraint and investigate itself is complicit in the furtherance of this brutal regime of colonization.
Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago